Open Boat vs. Hurricane Hugo

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Humanity tends to see itself as being somewhat important in the grand scheme of the Universe. We speak of “fate” as if we were put here for some reason, or purpose. We have our religions, which often serve as an engine to drive our lives and as a means to give meaning to them. But why do we think of ourselves in such a superior fashion? Would the Universe stop if we were suddenly taken away? In his short story, “The Open Boat,” Stephen Crane shows us a Universe totally unconcerned with the affairs of humankind; it is an indifferent Universe in which Man has to struggle to survive. The characters in the story come face to face with this indifference and are nearly overcome by Nature’s lack of concern.1 In a similar account, my family was faced with the same Universe and the damage that can be done without compassion. We were faced with a fight for our lives, and the battle was a tough one. 2 My family, like the characters in the story only survived through persistence and cooperation. Crane said it best when he wrote, in our constant struggle for survival, all we have is, “stubborn pride—and each other.” 1

Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” gives us a dose of reality that at first seems bitter, but it gradually induces a catharsis and in the end stands as testament to the human spirit. His claim that the Universe will never bend to the will of man is outweighed by his reassurances that we will always have each other. And when we contemplate “a high cold star on a winter’s night”1 we will not need to feel alone, because we can always turn to another person. I learned this through my own personal struggle, but I was not alone, my family went through the same storm, and we survived together. 2

My family was resting peacefully in their beds Thursday, September 21, 1989, the night that Hurricane Hugo struck the South Carolina coast. Earlier in the evening my father kissed us goodbye and went to work the night shift at his job. My grandparents had come to our house because they were staying at Myrtle Beach for vacation and the coast had been evacuated in preparation for the storm. We lived in Columbia, which was centrally located in the state, so we thought that we were out of harms way.